Northwestern files motion to dismiss lawsuit from former men’s basketball player Johnnie Vassar


Daily file photo by Nathan Richards

Johnnie Vassar passes the ball. Vassar filed a class-action lawsuit against the NCAA and Northwestern in November.

Garrett Jochnau, Sports Editor

Northwestern filed a motion Tuesday to dismiss former men’s basketball player Johnnie Vassar’s lawsuit against the university, according to court documents.

In November, Vassar filed a class-action lawsuit against the NCAA and NU, claiming the University breached its contract with Vassar when it revoked his athletic scholarship in May 2016. The University’s memorandum in support of its motion to dismiss said Vassar’s complaint failed to show NU committed a breach of contract, as he continues to receive a full scholarship as a current student.

University spokesman Al Cubbage and Steve Berman, Vassar’s lawyer, did not respond to requests for comment by the time of publication. Vassar deferred comment to his lawyer.

The University’s motion to dismiss addressed multiple other claims in Vassar’s complaint.

The motion to dismiss did not acknowledge claims in Vassar’s suit regarding “shady, dirty, and underhanded” behavior by the University, including allegedly falsified timecards during Vassar’s time on an “internship,” which allegedly involved work as a janitor, or allegations that coach Chris Collins “berated” Vassar.

Collins declined to comment on the lawsuit following a men’s basketball game in November.

“We’ll let those things be handled behind closed doors,” Collins said.

The University’s memorandum did state that Vassar worked in the Northwestern Athletics Facilities department. According to Vassar’s lawsuit, he was assigned a “service requirement” in the athletics department as part of a broader agreement, which allowed him to retain his athletic scholarship despite no longer being a member of the men’s basketball team.

Eventually, the University notified Vassar that the athletic scholarship would be revoked, according to the lawsuit. Vassar appealed the decision and won, but was still moved off the athletic scholarship, the lawsuit said.

The University’s memorandum states that because Vassar continues to receive a full scholarship and the the University was not contractually obligated to provide the “ancillary benefits” Vassar sought, there was no breach of contract.

In November, Cubbage said the allegations in Vassar’s lawsuit were “without merit and simply inaccurate.”

During the 2014-15 season, Vassar played 18 games for the Wildcats, averaging just under four minutes per game.

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Twitter: @GarrettJochnau